Restraint as behavioural tactic on CBC tonight

Filed Under (Acceptance, Activism, Critical Disability Studies, Discrimination, Ethics) by Estee on 08-01-2010

Tonight on The Fifth Estate we can watch the documentary Out of Control which addresses how youth and the mentally ill are treated for their behaviours by the use of restraint. Ashely Smith, once detained, committed suicide.

Yesterday, Boy Interrupted was aired about Evan Perry who had bi-polar disorder and committed suicide by the age of fifteen. “Bi-polar disorder,” says the family doctor in the piece, “is like cancer. It can kill. Some people survive.” Produced and directed by Evan’s mother Dana Heinz Perry, we see the family’s genetic history of the disorder while also understanding the mother’s profound love of her child.

It strikes me as odd when I hear stories, sometimes, of people saying to parents of disabled children that, if they had died, that it’s somehow a “relief.” For certain, watching Boy Interrupted made me realize my love for Adam, autism and what a travesty it is that we complain so much about the so-called “problems” we have instead of viewing them as opportunities to make the world a more accepting place. Yes that takes patience and disciplined work. While I know “making the world a more accepting place” is becoming an over-used phrase, thus coming to mean nothing, our work to understand mental illness and disability and de-stigmatize both is valuable and worth it.

We don’t seem to value people who have disabilities, depression, or any other physical illness very well. We spend more money and time putting people away rather than investing in them. Charity without thought and engagement is particularly concerning as it is a way of avoiding real issues. In the Buddhist sense, I read something that the 17th Karmapa (thus ordained by the Dalai Lama), who stated about generosity:

True generosity requires some wisdom — a clear understanding of ourselves who are giving, what we are giving, and to whom we are giving. If we use our intelligence, then generosity benefits both ourselves and others. We should not give just for the sake of giving or from an old habit. Further, in the process of giving, we should not become distracted, for losing our focus diminishes the scope and effect of our activity.” (Shambala Sun, January 2010, p. 52)

Many other Western philosophers felt the same about charity, particularly Nietszche who believed that charity was given by the rich to make them feel superior. It is also a way to avoid engaging with real problems and people and thus pretending the problem isn’t ours, but we are good people to at least do something about it. While charity can be helpful, it can also be a declaration: go away — I don’t want to deal with it, or, thank God it’s not me.

When we watch The Fifth Estate tonight and think about people like Ashley Smith of Evan Perry, I hope we can all try to think differently about all different kinds of people… and how we “treat” them.

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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.